Monday, July 07, 2008

Serving general stumps for the defence minister?

The Hill Times has a piece today on the looming battle in the riding of Central Nova, where Elizabeth May is taking on Peter MacKay in an interesting battle, with the NDP having a strong shot as well. This line in that article caught my interest:

Mr. MacKay got another boost recently, when he arranged a visit to the county by wildly popular and then-outgoing chief of defence staff Rick Hillier. Mr. Hillier attended fundraisers, visited monuments and hospitals, and chatted up the locals on the waterfronts and main streets.

The excitement over Mr. Hillier's visit was splashed across the local newspaper, one headline declaring: "Hillier wows 'em."

Is it really appropriate for a serving general, and the chief of defence staff, to be stumping for a member of parliament and the minister of defence? After he’s retired he can do whatever he wants, but while he’s still wearing the uniform it hardly seems appropriate.

Kind of serendipitous though that, after his tour through Central Nova and a boost to Peter MacKay’s fortunes, the now retired general has a new job:
Fresh from running a war, Rick Hillier, who stepped down as chief of the defence staff this week, is temporarily joining Gowlings, a huge law firm in Ottawa, to consider a future "career in the private sector." The general is not a lawyer and says he has not made any firm decisions about his future. Still, a statement provided by the firm said he "has indicated that when he assumes a new career in September, he is looking to provide strategic advice, leadership training and other consulting services." And Gowlings can help him with all that. Does this spell lobbying? Certainly, Mr. Hillier's name and expertise in the defence world will add even more cachet to the national firm, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

Not a lawyer..strategic advice…won’t lobby…where have we heard this before? Oh, right
John Reynolds, the man who co-chaired the Conservative national election campaign, is now offering advice to some of Canada's largest companies on how to access the government.

Reynolds has been hired by Lang Michener, a national law firm with offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. The company says it's hired Reynolds for his wealth of experience and connections….

The company said he was hired as a senior strategic adviser for Lang Michener's clients who need access to government, but Reynolds denies that means he's now a lobbyist.

Reynolds, of course, quickly changed his mind and registered to lobby his old boss. I wonder how long it will be before Hillier follows suit, and signs-up to lobby MacKay? And after a visit to Central Nova to boost the sagging fortunes of his old boss, the least Peter could do would be to take the call…

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Jason Hickman said...

I was concerned when I read the bit about fundraisers - a sitting officer should not be helping to sell partisan fundraisers or promote political candidates, which is how I read the Hill Times article. (It's obviously how you read it, too.)

However, this article, from a local media outlet, suggests that the fundraisers in question were for a local chamber of commerce, the Pictou office of the Military Family Resource Centre, and local cadets.

The fundraisers were not for McKay or the CPC, and the local media story suggests that Hillier wasn't "stumping" with MacKay at all. I think the Times torqued things a bit.

Jeff said...

Hmm, could be Jason. The media really should leave the sensationalizing to the bloggers. The MFRC and cadets thing is fine, but is it really normal for generals to headline CoC fundraisers? Maybe it is, I don't know. Anyway, whether you want to call it stumping or not, it is good timing for a popular general to go glad-handing and hold a series of high-profile events in a riding that just happens to be held by his boss. No rules broken I'm sure, but helpful for unpopular Peter nonetheless to bask in the reflected glow.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't know if the fundraising was appropriate but I do know that retiring before the Afghan mission ends is dodgy at best.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I get the "reflected glow" bit, but just for clarification, did Hillier actually appear WITH MacKay anywhere while the General was in the riding? The pic at the top of your post certainly suggests yes, but is that pic from Central Nova? ('Cause that does look like Skydome in the background).

I'm not sure it can be called "stumping" if he was just visiting the riding and was never seen with MacKay (though, maybe he was with MacKay). It's still a boost for MacKay to have him visit the riding I suppose, but would we say Hillier was "stumping" for Jack Layton if he attended a cadet fundraiser in Toronto, and gave a speech to the Toronto Chamber of Commerce?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Ahhh, I see now with a quick search that that is Skydome in the background. It's Hillier and MacKay at a pre-Grey Cup event last year.

I don't object to the picture particularly mind you (since it's reasonably obvious it isn't Central Nova) but still. It's a bit weird to have a pic of the two of them together at an event in Toronto a year ago that presumably DOZENS of other politicians and prominent figures attended attached to a story about the General "stumping" for MacKay in Central Nova, isn't it?

Jeff said...

LKO, I know MacKay introduced Hillier at the CoC fundraiser, I don't know what else they did together. I'd wager MacKay was probably at the two other fundraisers Jason noted, as both have military components.

On the pic, I was just looking for a pic with the two of them together, since that's the theme of the post. I settled on this one because MacKay looks particularly goofy.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! The Hillier appearance got me askin' the same question, Jeff.

From the Hill Times:

Mr. MacKay seemed as pleased as punch during a brief interview at a military appreciation day he threw that weekend in New Glasgow. The afternoon "kitchen party" came complete with local musicians, displays of army hardware, and a fly-over of military aircraft.

"General Hillier was a huge hit," Mr. MacKay told The Hill Times. "He was treated like a rock star."

"he threw" a kitchen party where Hillier was "treated like a rock star."

Seems like, at least in this instance, they were together in the same place and that the place was an event thrown by MacKay.

According to the local news site (thx, Jason):
A series of events are planned for Saturday to raise funds for the Military Family Resource Centre, which has an office in Pictou, and local cadet groups. A free kitchen party for Sunday at Glasgow Square is also planned.

Fundraising for various groups was on Saturday. The "free" kitchen party on Sunday does not seem to be a fundraising event associated with Saturday's recipients.

MacKay threw a kitchen party. I figger that was the same "unaffiliated" kitchen party mentioned in the local news. More info is needed as to the nature of that kitchen party and whether MacKay hosted it as a Minister or as a politician.